Friday, May 31, 2013

It's a debt-free mothers' world.

We earlier talked about how hard it is to be male, and to be young. The evidence keeps piling up.

A new Pew Research Center study found that nearly 40% of mothers are now the family breadwinners. That’s mothers, not women in general. The share of married mothers who out-earn their husbands has leaped from 4% in 1960 to 15% in 2011. The share of single mothers who are sole providers for their families has jumped from 7% to 25% over the same period.

The study also reported that:

  • married mothers are better educated than their husbands: 61% of husbands and wives in dual-earner households have similar education levels, but 23% of the mothers are better educated than their spouses, compared with 16% of fathers. Women have been graduating from college in greater numbers than men since 1985, and in many fields now earn more advanced degrees. 
  • while in 1960, most single mothers were divorced, separated or widowed, with only 4 percent never married, by now it’s 44% never married, with 40% of all births to single mothers. 

Dick Morris, in The Hill, brings out the truth about why student loans so damage American youth. We know young people financing college with student loans struggle with the loans’ high interest rates. But why are the interest rates so high?

It turns out that student loan interest payments rate could drop from 6.8% to 5.3% if the funds weren’t diverted to healthcare reform and other federal programs. Student loan profits go $8.7 billion for ObamaCare, $10.3 billion to pay down the federal debt, and $36 billion to Pell Scholarship grants.

This means the 16 million Americans graduating with student loans face a government hitting up their limited incomes for payments to other federal programs, at the very time their own needs are the greatest.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Look Here: Obama’s Conscience Revealed!

On May 15, the New York Times’ White House correspondent Peter Baker wrote an article about the president’s “onset of woes.” At the end of the article, Baker penned what I believe to be one of the most important apparently overlooked (I’ve waited two weeks to see it repeated) passages to appear in a major publication this year:
as he was traveling on Marine One on Monday, Mr. Obama took note of news reports describing last Friday [May 10] as a terrible day. “You know what was actually a terrible day?” an aide recalled him saying. “The day Benghazi actually happened.”
Do you not see how stunningly revealing this quote is? It tells us how much Obama knew. He knew everything that was happening the night of September 11, 2012, he knew American officers were dying at the hands of terrorists, he knew he did nothing to salvage the disaster, he reveals he was frozen into immobility by fear that any “presidential” action he took to get on top of the disaster would drive home in spectacular fashion that once again, on a September 11, the world had changed, that al Qaeda was back, and back only five days after he said, “al-Qaida is on the path to defeat and Osama bin Laden is dead.”

The 3 a.m. phone call had rung, and Obama hadn't picked up.  He knew, and he was desperately searching for a workable cover story, one that would explain inaction. Which he found. Which he used for a while. Before it began to unravel.

A terrible day indeed.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Don’t be a young male.

Nina Easton, at Fortune, reports that men are suffering. A recent MIT study found the sharp rise in single-parent households hurts boys more than girls. Others blame more readily available government assistance, making aid checks more appealing than paychecks, as well as the decline of well-paying manufacturing jobs, combined with fast-paced technological change.  Men have “endured a three-decade drop in earnings,” while women outstrip men in the 21st century global economy’s most important area -- education.

 Easton asked her readers “Why?”, and got back six top answers:  

  • Flight of fathers. "My father was a small-time white-collar criminal that fled the country prior to a court date when I was just a few months old," Adam C. Dudly wrote. "Even now, in my 30s, I struggle with laziness, sense of identity issues, figuring out who I am or what I want to be, and what kind of man I'm supposed to be ...” Jason DeSena Trennart added, “such family arrangements in the real world often doom children to lead lives of emotional and material privation."  
  • A rise in autism and ADHD. Michelle Linn wrote, "neurological disorders affect boys more frequently than girls, for autism, the rate is fivefold [confirmed here]. Could it be these illnesses and diseases of the central nervous system are actually affecting our economy?”  
  • Video games. "As the mother of two boys ages 14 and 15," wrote Chris Olofson, "my biggest fear is that it's the video gaming. . . is causing the lack of motivation and initiative to work and thus get a firm hold on the economic ladder.''  
  • A K-12 education system biased toward girls. As Rob Ritzenthaler bluntly put it: "Who was the nut that thought that boys should sit at a desk for 6-8 hours a day while they were growing up?" Some readers also criticized the emphasis on obtaining college degrees. Corey Planter, who graduated with a paper-engineering degree, noted that men mostly fill factory jobs as millwrights, pipe fitters, welders, and ironworkers -- paying up to $28 an hour. "You may be thinking that these jobs are rapidly disappearing, however they are not," he said, pointing to a machinist shop that was on a nationwide search for enough machinists to keep up with his orders.  
  • The financial gains of women. Gustavo A. Duran made clear he supports the recent economic gains of women . . . but he found more and more men taking a backseat. "I am now seeing many women in their 40s being the main breadwinners while their husbands diddle [around] daily in odds and ends," Duran wrote. "I think this trend will just get larger. . .”  
  • Affirmative action. T.J. Wilsson wrote, “so many major employers [oblige] 'guidelines' pressuring them to, effectively, discriminate against males ... For example, I read that a major employer in one state had guidelines that some 80% of its newly hired veterinarians be female." Ron Goddard complained that "every step of the way my sons and I were put on notice by corporate America that we were their second choice." 
It’s tough being a male, tougher still a young male. Sarah Ayres, significantly from the liberal Center for American Progress, is as concerned about what’s happening to young people as Easton is about men. In the current economy, Aryes observes, young Americans have suffered the most. While others have slowly returned to work, the unemployment rate for Americans ages 16–24 stands at 16.2%, more than double the national rate.

And even when youth eventually find work, the impact of their unemployment follows them for years. Workers unemployed as young adults earn lower wages in later years due to forgone work experience and missed skill development opportunities. The Center estimates that the nearly 1 million young Americans who experienced long-term unemployment during the recession will lose more than $20 billion over the next 10 years--about $22,000 per person. These Millennials will have to delay moving out of parents’ homes, will struggle to pay off ballooning student-loan debt, and will fail to save for retirement.

Americans under 40 have accumulated less wealth than their parents did at the same age more than 25 years ago. More than 13% of borrowers—mainly young adults—have defaulted on their student loans, and another 26% are delinquent.

Unemployment is a major problem for young Americans in general, but an even bigger problem for young people of color.  While the overall unemployment rate for teenagers is 25.1%, the unemployment rate for black teens is 43.1%, with half of black males ages 16–19 looking for work unable to find a job.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

National Elite Hanging On

The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto drives home differently, better, several points I’ve tried to make over the years. In a few paragraphs, he ties together Democrats’ occupying the high moral ground, their related capture of the elite, and the “end justifies the means” politics the elite have developed since. Taranto:
The administrative state [is] in thrall to a decadent cultural elite. . .
Watergate helped bring about the current crisis of authority. It oversimplifies matters only slightly to say the liberal left owes its cultural authority to three events in the 1960s and 1970s. The culmination of the civil-rights movement in 1964-65 established its moral authority. The antiwar movement's success at securing defeat in Vietnam established its political authority. Watergate discredited the Republican Party. (It also made heroes of journalists and provided impetus for restricting the political speech of those who are not media professionals.)
The political result of all this was . . . polarization. The ascendant left became dominant in the Democratic Party, driving conservatives into the Republican camp, which in turn encouraged liberal Republicans to become Democrats. The cultural result--the effect on journalistic, educational, charitable and scientific institutions--was both polarization and left-wing domination.
The left, certain of its moral authority, felt entitled to rule. . . Moral authority entails a moral hazard: the temptation to abuse political and cultural power. Today's liberal left conceives of itself as being on the side of all that is good, right and reasonable. It caricatures the right as racist, extremist, greedy, dishonest, fanatically religious, prone to violence--and dangerous because, through the Republican Party, it has maintained parity in the political arena. Of the 10 presidential elections since Watergate, each party won 5; and voters haven't entrusted the Democrats with full control of government for more than two years since the Carter era.
If ordinary politics are a battle between good and evil, then winning becomes an overriding moral imperative. The end justifies the means: Journalists shade or conceal the truth in the service of a "larger truth." Government restricts political speech in the name of promoting democracy. Administrative agencies perpetrate injustice in the name of "social justice." That's how IRS agents could think it was their patriotic duty to help fix an election for the party in power.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The European state, Democrats’ model, is sick.

the Obama administration appears to be pleading guilty to lesser crimes of bureaucratic incompetence.  But that is an unsustainable position for a president who wants Americans to believe again in the power and grace of good government, particularly as it relates to the implementation of Obamacare.

--Ron Fournier, National Journal

The Democratic Party is the party of government. As such, the party depends upon the image--and “image” it is, since to put it bluntly, government is kleptocracy--of government being a positive force in our lives. For their model of a benign state, operating as a force for good, Democrats turn to Europe.

So what’s going on in Europe? From the AP:
the rise in the level of youth unemployment for the eurozone to 24.2%. . .raises the risk of removing a whole generation from the labor force. [N]early 19 million people were unemployed in the eurozone . . . in January.
At the same time, the BBC reports that France is in recession, defined as two consecutive quarters of contracting GDP. The eurozone’s #2 economy isn’t expected to grow this year. The French unemployment rate is running at 10.6% and is forecast to rise further next year. Across the 17-nation eurozone, the recession has entered its sixth quarter, with zone-wide unemployment expected to average 12.2%.

Janet Daley, in the Telegraph (U.K.), writes that in praising government, Obama is “speaking from what is, for [Europeans], a discredited past in which the will of government is always seen as just and merciful”:
It is not a travesty of the European project to say that it was a conspiracy of the European elites against their own peoples: it is the literal truth. Of course, the EU, with its unelected centralised governing bodies, overrides the democratic wishes of the nation states. That’s the whole point. This was a post-war French and German idea, devised to prevent any possibility of the hideous conflicts that devastated the continent during the last century.
From his "farewell lecture" at Yale, 80-year-old scholar of ancient Greece Donald Kagan also traced back to two horrible wars Europe’s understandable weakness:
people go to war out of "honor, fear and interest." War "is a violent teacher. [Y]ou can expect people, whatever they may be, to seek to maximize their power, unless they're Europeans and have checked their brains at the door, so mortified are they, understandably, by what happened to them in the 20th century. They can't be taken seriously.”
Seemingly associating “soft” American liberals with the Europeans, Kagan added:
We're a certain kind of culture which makes it hard for us to behave rationally when the rational thing is to be tough. We can do it when we're scared to death and there seem to be no alternatives. When it's time to nail down something, we very often sneak away. . . Who else has a religion filled with the notion “turn the other cheek”? Who ever heard of such a thing?! If you're gonna turn the other cheek, go home. Give up the ball.
Of course, there is much to like about Europe, even if its economy doesn’t actually work. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s where-to-be-born index (see chart; hit to enlarge) links the results of subjective life-satisfaction surveys—how happy people say they are—to objective determinants. The magazine notes:
Being rich helps more than anything else, but it is not all that counts; things like crime, trust in public institutions and the health of family life matter too. In all, the index takes 11 statistically significant indicators into account. . . A forward-looking element comes into play, too. . . We use the EIU’s economic forecasts to 2030, which is roughly when children born in 2013 will reach adulthood.
I say be wary of efforts to dodge per capita GDP as the best indicator national health. Ask the people themselves how they measure individual and family health. Employed people facing brighter economic futures are likely to be happiest.

From the camp of those who believe GDP is the best measure of true heath, here’s the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger:
Europe, awash in college diplomas, has had high youth unemployment for decades. It's an established school of study for economists there. And they know the causes: a decline in economic growth made worse by regulatory thickets (with or without societal benefits), and entitlement obligations and tax regimes that drove the entrepreneurial instinct out of Europe. What remained were jobs in government bureaucracies.
The U.S. under Barack Obama is at the edge of the dark jobs forest Europe disappeared into in the 1970s, with our annual growth during his term down around 2% instead of over its normal 3%. Our kids are starting to look and sound like Europe's smart kids—despondent and resigned.
Did you hear Obama’s pean to government, delivered at Ohio State just before his multiple scandals erupted? Jackie Calmes in the New York Times reported
President Barack Obama [told] graduates at Ohio State University to ignore anti-government arguments that “gum up the works” and instead aspire to be citizens who value both individual rights and community responsibilities. “Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems. You should reject these voices.”
Citizenship, he said, is sometimes seen “as a virtue from another time, the distant past — one that’s slipping from a society that celebrates individual ambition above all else, a society awash in instant technology that empowers us to leverage our skills and talents like never before, but just as easily allows us to retreat from the world. And the result is that we sometimes forget the larger bonds we share as one American family.”
Obama has to be concerned. As Alexander Burns and John Harris of the liberal website “Politico” wrote:
A [January] Pew survey . . .found that just 26% of voters said they “can trust government always or most of the time.” 53% said the federal government “threatens [their] personal rights and freedoms” — the first time that statement has earned majority support, according to Pew.
All this caused Washington Post conservative George Will to gloat, “Obama’s presidency may yet be, on balance, a net plus for the public good if it shatters Americans’ trust in the regulatory state. . .”

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Re. Benghazi disaster: Romney also blew it.

Romney at Sept. 12 Press Conference
My difficulties with Romney are well-documented. Still, I failed to fault him, as I should have, for the way he handled Benghazi during the 2012 campaign.

Ex-White House correspondent Richard Benedetto writes about how “Obama Got Pass on Benghazi, Thanks to Romney.” Benedetto points out that Romney
made the colossal blunder of jumping out ahead of the president in responding to the attacks. By doing that, he made himself a key player in the first news stories about the tragedy. That set him up as a target for critics when Obama should have had the hot seat all to himself. With that diversion, the pressure on the president to take sole responsibility was relieved, and in many ways deflected it toward Romney.
Romney was wrong to pounce on the American Embassy Cairo press release condemning an American YouTube video that insulted Muhammed. His criticism came too fast; Romney failed to realize the Embassy press release actually preceded the mob attack on the Cairo facility. The press release was part of a local effort to head off the attack--it wasn’t a post-attack attempt to mollify attackers who had ripped down the American flag. Romney also didn’t know that Washington had disassociated itself from the press release.

Romney’s folks were no doubt initially pleased with how quickly they had inserted their candidate into a story about Muslim extremists destroying our flag, but they goofed because good foreign policy is really about cooler heads prevailing. Still, Romney’s initial error hardly compared with what came next. The death of four Americans including our ambassador in Benghazi changed everything, everything. Who talks about Cairo’s flag pole today?

Yet Romney, Romney, on the morning of September 12, linked the two events and made his September 11 statement about the Cairo flag grabbing his version of what happened in Benghazi--as if the two events were directly connected. No wonder Obama was delighted to continue linking the two events, blaming Benghazi on the YouTube video. Romney started it!

From the “Politifact” story on what Romney actually said:
Romney’s initial statement on the evening of Sept. 11 calling the administration’s response "disgraceful" was made with knowledge of how the Cairo incident ended, but before the full details in Libya had emerged. On the other hand, significant details about both events were available by the time he made his comments on the morning of Sept. 12.
From the actual transcript of what Romney said to the press A.M. September 12, when Benghazi was already the big story:
the administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt, instead of condemning their actions. It’s never too early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values.
The White House distanced itself last night from the statement, saying it wasn’t cleared by Washington. That reflects the mixed signals they’re sending to the world.
The attacks in Libya and Egypt underscore that the world remains a dangerous place and that American leadership is still sorely needed. [emphasis added]
QUESTION: ... right. If you had known that the ambassador had died, would you have issued...
ROMNEY: I -- we responded last night to the events that happened in Egypt. I think President Obama has -- has demonstrated a -- a lack of clarity as to a foreign policy.
QUESTION: How specifically, Governor Romney, would President Romney have handled this situation differently than President Obama? You spoke out before midnight when all the facts were known. How would you have handled this differently than the president did?
ROMNEY: I spoke out when the key fact that I referred to was known, which was that the Embassy of the United States issued what appeared to be an apology for American principles. That was a mistake. And I believe that when a mistake is made of that significance, you speak out. [emphasis added]
The Cairo press release was “the key fact” in the Libya killings? What?

It’s possible that if Romney hadn’t directly linked Cairo to Benghazi--doing Obama’s work for him--the administration would itself have refrained from doing so, would have called what happened in Benghazi a terrorist attack, would have condemned terrorism and proclaimed its determination to fight it, would have swiftly gone after the Libyan terrorists the way they went after bin Laden, and would have been free of Benghazi questions today.

Only possible, not probable. Today, we know that Obama and company already had the damaging information that David Petraeus had had an affair with the author of his biography while serving as CIA director, and so the administration knew it could blackmail the CIA chief through the eight weeks until election day to stand behind whatever version it concocted of what happened in Benghazi. So even though Romney did pave a path for the media to ignore what actually went on in Benghazi, Obama, with the cooperation of the press, likely would have subverted the truth in any case.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Benghazi Chickens Come Home to Roost

Establishment conservative Peggy Noonan, writing in the Wall Street Journal, provides motive for and insight into Obama’s cover-up of what really happened in Benghazi last September 11:
The Obama White House. . . could not tolerate the idea that the armed assault on the Benghazi consulate was a premeditated act of Islamist terrorism. That would carry a whole world of unhappy political implications, and demand certain actions. And the American presidential election was only eight weeks away. They wanted this problem to go away, or at least to bleed the meaning from it.
To Obama, the truth about Benghazi was unacceptable. Remember, before Obama received the gift of a collapsing economy in the 2008 election, he was the representative of the Democratic left who bested heavy favorite Hillary Clinton in the primaries with a 2002 video opposing the Iraq invasion, a time when he was only an Illinois state senator. Obama won the 2008 nomination by being more-“anti” than Hillary. The Democratic party's base hated Bush 43 for “stealing” the 2000 election, for--after the first 9.11--winning the 2004 election by wrapping himself in the national security flag, and for invading Iraq, Bush’s “Vietnam.”

In September 2008, John McCain, partly running on his national security bona fides and with the Iraq surge a recent success, had pulled even with Obama in the polls. The issue that had helped Obama in the liberal Democratic primary--national security--was a weakness in the general. Then came the financial crash.

By the day of the Benghazi 9/11 anniversary attack four years later, Obama had set aside the national security issue with a single act: assassinating Osama bin Laden. Just 5 days earlier, in his speech accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination, Obama had said, “A new tower rises above the New York skyline, al-Qaida is on the path to defeat and Osama bin Laden is dead. (Cheers, applause.)”

How could Obama possibly accept the truth of Benghazi: that on the 11th anniversary of 9.11, al Qaeda was alive and destroying the Benghazi American Consulate--technically on U.S. soil--and killing our ambassador and three other American officials? So soon after Obama’s speech proclaiming al Qaeda “on the path to defeat”? Eight weeks before the election? How could that be acceptable?

Obama knew he needed a cover story, and he knew that his close allies in the media--fortunately fully committed to his re-election--would run with whatever cover story the White House provided. In the short run, it all worked out. Obama won re-election.

Now as with the Watergate cover-up in 1972, which also worked well enough in the short run to secure a president's (Nixon’s) re-election, it is beginning to come unraveled. Peggy Noonan again:
From the day of the attack until this week, the White House spin was too clever by half. In the weeks and months after the attack White House spokesmen said they were investigating the story, an internal review was under way. When the story blew open again, last week, they said it was too far in the past: “Benghazi happened a long time ago." Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, really said that.
Think of that. They can't give answers when the story's fresh because it just happened, they're looking into it. Eight months later they don't have anything to say because it all happened so long ago. Think of how low your opinion of the American people has to be to think you can get away. . . with that.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Stock Market Hits Outer Space

The stock market reached escape velocity today, topping a theoretical limit of a Dow of 15,000, an S&P 500 of 1,600, and a NASDAQ of 3,500, for a total of 20,100. That is the ceiling of our New FOX Index. Today’s close saw the Dow at 15,105, the S&P 500 at 1,633, and NASDAQ--still below its 3,500 atmospheric limit--at 3,413. That 21,151 total for the three indexes puts the New FOX Index into outer space by +51 (see chart).

During the peak of the boom in early 2000, the NASDAQ hit its all-time high of 5,049, before taking a long slide down to 1,114 in October 2002--a drop of 78%. That compares to the Dow’s Great Depression fall of 89% between 1929 and 1932. NASDAQ is now 58% of the way back from 1,114 to the peak of 5,049, having just now exceeded 2/3rds the the 2000 peak’s value.

In the first quarter of 2000, when NASDAQ and the boom topped out, the Dow’s high close was 11,773, and the S&P’s high was 1,527. So the peak for the three indexes combined, not on the same day, was 18,349. We are well above that level now.

Please note: the average length of 33 bull markets since 1900 is 2.1 years, and the 5 that lasted more than 3.6 years ended badly. The current bull market is over 4 years old.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Historic Bull Market, Weak Economy

The stock market is hitting the stratosphere. Not only does the S&P 500 continue pushing above 1,600 after having never before closed above 1,565 (October 2007), but the Dow has now ended above 15,000 for the first time ever. The Wall Street bull market entered its fifth year in March, the Dow is at 15,057, the S&P 500 is at 1,626, and the NASDAQ, which is still well short of its peak close of 5,049 reached in March 2000, is up to 3,397, its high.

Our old FOX Index, dating back to 2008, defined a “healthy” market as a Dow of 12,000, an S&P 500 of 1,300, and a NASDAQ of 2,500. Certainly, it would be “unhealthy” to drop below those levels, but in the meantime, let’s follow Wall Street into outer space with an Index that marks above/below a Dow of 15,000, an S&P 500 of 1,600, and a NASDAQ of 3,500, yielding a total of 20,100. Given, therefore, today’s close of the three indexes at 20,080, we are (see chart) a mere 20 points below  leaving the atmosphere. (The old FOX Index would now be  +4,280.)

So what does the New York Times’ Jeff Sommer say about all this good news? Only that
while the financial markets are soaring, the real economy appears to be mired in an endless slog. That discrepancy raises a troubling question: How long can financial portfolios continue to swell if wages, employment and corporate revenue remain constrained?
“We aren’t seeing an extraordinary level of economic growth,” [David J. Kostin, equity strategist at Goldman Sachs] said, “so companies need to take other measures to enhance profits, [including] being very careful about costs and about hiring.” [W]hich helps explain the anemic labor market.
Which means slow job growth will continue.

Economics writer Robert Samuelson, in the Washington Post, takes his crack at explaining our current job creation difficulties. Samuelson believes we are passing through the collapse of "entitlement," as articulated by Bill Clinton. The former president said that in America, "If you work hard and play by the rules, you'll have the freedom and opportunity to pursue your own dreams."

But Samuelson notes that millions of Americans who have "played by the rules" are either “in distress or fear that they might be.” In a recent poll, 65% of respondents said today's middle class has less "job and financial security" than did their parents, 52% asserted there is less "opportunity to get ahead," while only 51% of workers were confident they'll have enough to retire comfortably, down from 70% in 2007.

Samuelson writes, “Poverty is stubborn. Many schools seem inadequate. The ‘safety net,’ private and public, is besieged.”

Clinton’s “entitlement,” Samuelson concludes, ultimately rested on optimistic, unrealistic assumptions:  

First, that economists knew enough to moderate the business cycle, guaranteeing jobs for most. [F]rom 1980 to 2007, the economy created 47 million non-farm jobs. The Great Recession [ended] faith in a crude stability.  

Second, that large corporations . . . could provide secure jobs and generous benefits -- health insurance, pensions. . . Deregulation, foreign competition and new technologies [mean c]ompanies [now cut] jobs and [squeeze] fringe benefits.  

Third, that [technology] would lift living standards and finance bigger government[, able to pay] for new programs by taking a fixed share of rising incomes. In[stead,] income inequality has dampened middle-class living standards, while . . . soaring health costs and . . . an aging population [claim more] taxes.  

Fourth, that lifestyle choices . . . would expand individual freedom without . . . adverse . . . consequences. Wrong. Family breakdown has deepened poverty and worsened children's prospects. . . 30% of children live with [one] or no parent.

Samuelson’s final point loops back to a constant theme of this blog--the economic cost of family breakdown.

Monday, May 06, 2013

The education of Melanie Phillips: does the left hate families?

Melanie Phillips grew up in a London East End family scarred by poverty, was a committed Labourite, received a sound formal education, and, as she tells it in her book, Guardian Angel: My Story, My Britain:
went to work as a journalist on the Guardian, the self-styled paper of choice for intellectuals and the supposed voice of progressive conscience. Those of us who worked there had a fixed belief in our own superiority and righteousness. We saw ourselves as clever and civilised champions of liberal thought.
I felt loved and cherished, the favoured child of a wonderful and impressive family. To my colleagues, there was virtually no question that the poor were the victims of circumstances rather than being accountable for their own behaviour and that the state was a wholly benign actor in the lives of individuals. It never occurred to us that there could be another way of looking at the world. Above all, we knew we were on the side of the angels, while across the barricades hatchet-faced Right-wingers represented the dark forces of human nature and society that we were all so proud to be against.
But then Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979. Thatcherites were not the usual upper-class squires, but people with backgrounds similar to Phillips’ own.  “They were promoting the values with which I had been brought up in my Labour-supporting family — all about opportunities for social betterment, hard work, taking responsibility for oneself.”

Phillips says she wrote with “ordinary people in mind,” folks who were just as skeptical as she was of “intellectual abstractions, fantasies or Utopian solutions:”
I always believed a good journalist should uphold truth over lies and follow the evidence where it led. Trudging round godforsaken estates as the paper’s special reporter on social affairs, I could see the stark reality of what our supposedly enlightened liberal society was becoming. . . I came to realise that the Left was not on the side of truth, reason and justice. . . Rather than fighting abuse of power, it embodied it.
. . . journalists on highbrow papers write primarily for other journalists or to impress politicians or other members of the great and the good.  They don’t actually like ordinary people — especially the lower middle class, the strivers who believed in self-discipline and personal responsibility. They dismiss them as narrow-minded, parochial and prejudiced.
Phillips focused on family breakdown:
I deplored the explosion of lone parenting, female-headed households and mass fatherlessness. . . There were whole communities where committed fathers were almost totally unknown. Children as young as five were becoming highly sexualised from the example of their promiscuous mothers.
Family breakdown was dissolving the bonds of society and civilisation itself. . . young men were fathering children indiscriminately and children were growing up in unbridled savagery and lawlessness to despise their mothers and disdain men and all authority.  What really horrified [the] professionals [Phillips interviewed] was these disastrous consequences were being ignored.
And she blamed the Left itself:
The idea that a woman could be mother and father to her children — more, that it was her “right” to choose such a lifestyle — led directly to the hopeless plight of often inadequate women struggling to raise children while the men who fathered them were, in effect, told they were free to do their own thing.  I was as perplexed by this as I was appalled. I had been brought up to believe the Left stood for altruism rather than selfishness, community rather than individualism, self- discipline rather than the law of the jungle and the survival of the fittest.  Instead, society was worshipping at the shrine of the self, and this was causing a rising tide of juvenile distress, crime, emotional disturbance, educational and relationship failure.
Of course for writing all this, Britain’s intellectual left attacked Phillips for her “unmatched depths of ignorance and bigotry,” for being the “queen of mean,” and they ostracized her. Phillips herself says she isn’t “ideologically driven,” and in fact hates the way “political debate has been polarised into warring camps, with each side circling its wagons and striking ever more inflexible, dogmatic and adversarial positions.”

 Her book pleads for more civil discourse. Phillips writes for a British audience, but her message seems suited to America as well.